In the past few years, Jennifer Garner has transformed from Hollywood sweetheart and half of Bennifer 2.0 to one of our culture’s most awkward and soothing personalities. After dumping Ben Affleck (thereby extricating herself from his many rumored troubles), becoming the face of a credit card, focusing her acting career on films with deep-seated family values (from the wholesome Love Simon and Miracles from Heaven to the vigilante mom thriller Peppermint), and unwittingly finding herself at the heart of one of this year’s most harmless memes (oops, sorry), Jennifer Garner has evolved into her purest form, and she’s showing that person off on Instagram.
Have you ever seen one of those pro-coffee posters they sell at places like Cracker Barrel or Tuesday Morning that say things like, “Coffee is from a bean. Beans grow on plants. Coffee is a salad. I eat salad every day”? What about ones that say, “Wine improves with age, I improve with wine”? Imagine one of those signs was scanned into the computer the two horny teens in Weird Science used to create Kelly LeBrock, and that the computer outputted an exceedingly friendly and talkative sentient human being. Now imagine that human being started an Instagram account. That Instagram account would look a lot like Instagram.com/Jennifer.Garner.
It is as earnest and hypnotic as Britney Spears’s Instagram account, but without the Sam Asghari-related horniness; the G-rated version to Spears’s low-level PG-13. She naps. She wears giant scarves. She cooks meals. She picks fruit. She harvests honey. She drinks coffee and dances to Jamiroquai. She picks kale. She molds mouth guards while listening to music from The Sims. She dances alone to Robyn. She makes bagels. She names chickens. She reads to chickens. She walks chickens. She mourns chickens. She roasts chickens. But above all, she practices kindness.
There are plenty of online destinations where you can find temporary solace from the nastiness of the world, and Garner’s Instagram is by no means novel in its predominantly rose-colored view—nor is it entirely dismissive of society’s increasingly visible blemishes (yesterday she used the platform to call congresspeople to demand that they not separate families on the border). But it is one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve encountered—an irony-free wall of gentle oddities that I can enjoy without cynicism or disdain.
Just take this commercial she just created and shared for her Once Upon a Farm baby food brand. It appears to have been shot with a cell phone by either her child or assistant, and she plays the role of a mother shopping for Once Upon a Farm-brand baby food and the friendly Target employee who helps her find it. The dialogue is stilted and the editing a bit sloppy—oh, and she almost walks into a column in the center of the baby food aisle—but there’s something contagious about her temperament and admirable commitment to the piece. What I’m getting at is that this commercial has no reason to exist, but Jennifer Garner—a figure who will linger in our collective consciousness for as long as people keep binging Alias, rewatching 13 Going On 30, or find themselves in need of lines of credit—made it for us anyway. If you squint, there’s something hopeful in it.